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Itasca one of nation's best water parks

Crossing the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River is one of the most popular attractions at Itasca State Park. Generations of children have grown up with the memory of walking across the river on stepping stones. (File photo)

Itasca State Park was voted one of the top eight state parks in America by Take Me Fishing Facebook fans based on fishing, boating and family fun.

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation's Take Me Fishing campaign invited fans to determine the top eight natural waterparks in America. Twenty-four pre-determined parks were put to the test and the top eight were chosen after eight weeks of voting.

Other parks included:

n Lake Murray State Park, Oklahoma.

n Blue Spring State Park, Florida.

n El Dorado State Park, Kansas.

n Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania.

n Cave Lake State Park, Nevada.

n Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee.

n Wellington State Park, New Hampshire.

"Families are looking for unique, close to home trips," said Frank Peterson, RBFF President and CEO. "Itasca State Park is an example of an enjoyable and affordable fishing and boating hotspot right in your own backyard."

Situated on the headwaters of the Mississippi River, showcasing a stunning untouched shoreline and surrounded by nearly 33,000 acres of forests, hiking trails and water, Itasca State Park offers a never-ending list of fun outdoor activities for guests of all ages. Visitors can enjoy fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking and camping just to name a few, and the fun doesn't stop after the summer is over. Itasca State Park offers great opportunities for guests to enjoy ice-fishing and camping for those cold winter months.

"Itasca is very excited to be ranked as one of the top places to boat and fish," said Connie Cox, Itasca State Park lead park naturalist. "We see ourselves as a gem and a wonderful place to visit. People from all fifty states and all around the world come here to enjoy our pristine and untouched shoreline."

For families with kids, Itasca State Park offers a unique "I Can Fish!" program where kids and adults who have never had the opportunity to try out fishing can be exposed to it at no cost. Fishing poles are provided for free and Itasca has a fishing pier where visitors can test the waters.

"Kids who grow up in urban settings don't always have the opportunity to try fishing or don't have anyone to show them," Cox said. "We love to show kids the joys of fishing and boating and if we can get them inspired, we consider it a success. It's really rewarding for us."

Since 2007, the Take Me Fishing campaign has generated nearly $30 million for state conservation efforts. The campaign increases awareness of the need to protect, conserve and restore the nation's aquatic resources by encouraging participation in recreational boating and fishing. These efforts impact conservation efforts in states like Minnesota and throughout the country.

For more information on boating and fishing and a full list of places to participate in the sports, visit Take